After serving in the United States Air Force, he enrolled in the Art Center College of Design and later the Chouinard Institute in Los Angeles. His initial works were representations of the cloudscapes he had observed flying airplanes.
In 1960 Earl and his wife Millie “set out to explore the country”. They made it “all the way to Arizona” before deciding to settle in Sedona. The couple eventually moved to Phoenix where Earl found work as a technical illustrator.
By the late 1970’s Carpenter decided to become a full time artist. He moved to Flagstaff and spent extensive time on the Hopi and Navajo reservations. When the poverty and living conditions of the tribes became to depressing, he changed his focus to a more inspirational subject, the Grand Canyon. Earl says he is “challenged by trying to go beyond a photographic rendering of the Canyon to expressing his feelings of awe about it.” In other words, painting what he feels instead of what he sees. In the artist’s own words:
“By 8 AM, I’m setting up my easel near Grand View point on the South Rim. Before touching brush to canvas, I concentrate on visualizing the scene before me. Then I begin with broad strokes to brush in cobalt violet, while the sun steadily travels westward giving me a different canyon “mood” every quarter hour or so. I let Nature and my inner responses have their way.
Around noon I take a break. I’ve kept the large masses free of detail so I can “dream” into the painting. I could never hope to duplicate a photographic likeness of this chasm: perhaps I don’t really care to. Instead, I think in watercolor because it’s fresh and spontaneous, and then I do the actual painting in oil. Lately I’ve been exploring the use of a palette knife.
I try to keep my paintings in the “sketch” stage as long as I possibly can, before pinning down detail. I’m fond of vistas, and highlighting just a tip of a rock outcrop as the sun breaks over it -and if there is a storm somewhere in the canyon, so much the better for creating mood. Often I’ve been bombarded with such natural mood setters, getting in one day rainstorms, lightning, rainbows, sun and shadows.
By 3:00 PM, I’m starting to paint in the contrasts, and smearing areas of the painting sideways, then upside down to check the interplay of light and dark patterns.
The last thing I do is carefully photograph the scene in 35mm. I’ll use the exposure in slide form later, back at the studio, as a reference for touching up the painting.
Recently, I also started carrying a tape recorder with me on these painting treks. It’s a form of verbal shorthand which helps me recall a particular moment with regard to color and composition. None of this technique is secret. Nor is it sacred.
I’ve been to the Grand Canyon in all seasons, camped out on the rims, hiked the trails. As fate would have it, numerous times I’ve met up with other artists who feel as I do. We give each other friendly advice. Art is just such a give and take experience. There are no secrets…just hard work and lots of brush mileage.